Unite delegate Jim Kelly gave a moving speech seconding a motion at Labour conference on Sunday (September 26) on the Grenfell Tower fire.
Jim highlighted how five members of Unite died in the fire, adding that “we felt the loss keenly and worked to provide immediate emergency food, clothing and legal support for 69 residents”.
Jim noted that the “tragedy was a toxic mix” that included various factors, such “privatisation and outsourcing; the watering down of construction safety legislation; cut backs to emergency and council services; a lack of investment in council housing; low wages & precarious employment”, as well as “contempt for working class people”.
“Grenfell residents groups had been raising formal complaints over lack of maintenance in the block for 5 years prior to the fire,” he explained. “It is not a coincidence that the majority of the residents and those who lost their lives were Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority people and many were migrants.
“Their voices were not deemed worth listening to and cutting costs was more important,” Jim added. “And as FBU colleagues have said, Boris Johnson left the London Fire Service in tatters after imposing the biggest round of cuts in its history.”
“He even threatened to fire and rehire London firefighters,” he noted.
Jim also highlighted that after the tragedy, people were forced into unsafe and overcrowded accommodation “due to the dysfunctional housing market in London, and especially the gentrification of North Kensington”.
“We must not forget,” Jim concluded. “We must continue to fight for justice for the Grenfell residents.”
By Hajera Blagg